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Energy products boost US import prices in January
[WASHINGTON] US import prices rose more than expected in January amid further gains in the cost of energy products, but a strong dollar continued to dampen underlying imported inflation.
The Labor Department said on Friday import prices increased 0.4 per cent last month after an upwardly revised 0.5 per cent rise in December. In the 12 months through January, import prices jumped 3.7 per cent, the largest gain since February 2012, after advancing 2.0 per cent in December.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices gaining 0.2 per cent last month after a previously reported 0.4 per cent increase in December.
The dollar extended gains against the euro on the data, while prices for US government debt fell.
Import prices are rising as firming global demand lifts prices for oil and other commodities, but the spillover to a broader increase in inflation is being limited by dollar strength.
The dollar gained 4.4 per cent against the currencies of the United States' main trading partners in 2016, with most of the appreciation occurring in last months of the year.
This suggests that the greenback will continue to depress imported inflation in the near-term even though the dollar has weakened 2.9 per cent on a trade-weighted basis this year.
Prices for imported fuels increased 5.8 per cent last month after rising 6.6 per cent in December. Import prices excluding fuels fell 0.2 per cent following a 0.1 per cent dip the prior month. The cost of imported food dropped 1.3 per cent after declining 1.5 per cent in December.
Prices for imported capital goods edged down 0.1 per cent after being unchanged in December. The cost of imported automobiles dropped 0.5 per cent, the biggest decline since January 2015.
Imported consumer goods prices excluding automobiles fell 0.1 per cent last month after sliding 0.2 per cent in December.
The report also showed export prices ticking up 0.1 per cent in January after increasing 0.4 per cent in December.
Export prices were up 2.3 per cent from a year ago. That was the biggest increase since January 2012 and followed a 1.3 per cent advance in December.
Prices for agricultural exports dipped 0.1 per cent last month as falling prices for soybeans offset higher prices for corn. Agricultural export prices fell 0.2 per cent in December.
Prices for industrial supplies and materials exports rose for a second straight month in January.